Stephen Pelton Dance Theater

Violence looks lyrical and tenderness totters at the edge of the abyss
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Resonant and thoughtful
Photo by Andy Mogg

PREVIEW Stephen Pelton's full-bodied and thoughtfully structured choreography fits his dancers like second skins. It's one of the most appealing aspects of the work from this longtime San Francisco artist who now spends half of his time in London. Another of his gifts is choosing music — whether it's Radiohead, Schubert, or Edith Piaf — that supports his purposes ever so smoothly. Often drawing inspiration from literary sources, Pelton is a storyteller in the manner of poets who suggest, evoke, and analogize — but don't spell out. The results are dances that resonate like a Zen bell. He may be best remembered for The Hurdy-Gurdy Man (1998), that strangely haunting solo drawn from documentation of Hitler's body language. He also has created such epics as The American Song Book (1997), which uses popular American music to evoke three different periods in US history. But Pelton's choreography is most at home in intimacy, full of contradictory impulses in which violence looks lyrical and tenderness totters at the edge of the abyss. A note of melancholy and resignation permeates much of it; perhaps this is not unexpected from an artist who came of age during the worst days of the AIDS crisis. Pelton describes and a white light in the back of my mind to guide me, this season's premiere, as a meditation on aging. Performed solo and as an ensemble, the piece grew out of a World War II poem by Anglo-Irish poet Louis MacNeice. The work's accompanying music is from the English composer Gavin Bryars. This program includes a preview of next year's Citizen Hill, last season's Tuesday, Not Here (created for the remarkable Nol Simonse in 2003), and Christy Funsch in her reworked 2007 Solo for Somebody.

STEPHEN PELTON DANCE THEATER Thurs/5–Sat/7, 8 p.m., Sun/8, 7 p.m. Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St., SF. $20–$25. (415) 273-4633, (415) 826-4441, www.dancemission.com

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